PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2020
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGER AND ENERGY: Joe Biden’s election over the weekend and his determination to restore American leadership on climate change around the world really leaves Scott Morrison, now, completely out in the cold.
Over the last several weeks we’ve seen Japan, China, and South Korea commit to net zero emissions by the middle of the century. The UK and the European Union, among many others, were already there. This morning the Australian Industry Group has called upon Scott Morrison to use the election of Mr Biden as a “spur” to make that commitment here in Australia. Now is the time for Scott Morrison to pivot away from Tony Abbott’s tired old agenda of fighting the future.
We are in a race now, around the world, as we transform the global economy to clean energy. A race for jobs and investment. A starting position to get to the starting line on that race requires Australia to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
JOURNALIST: The Government has always said that it is committed to climate change and reducing emissions. Is the idea that Australia is going to be left out entirely here surely that is not quite right? I mean the Government didn’t have Donald Trump’s policy of being just completely intrastent to it, they’ve had commitment and they say that they are keeping them.
BUTLER: With the election of Joe Biden and his commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 more than 70 per cent of Australia’s trade is now conducted with countries committed to that net zero emissions position. It is clear that around the world that is now the orthodoxy and Australia is one out; along with a whole heap of intransigent laggards on climate action and that is going to cost Australia.
It is going to cost Australia in a couple of ways. Firstly, there is a race for massive investment in transforming the global economy. A race for investment and for jobs. It is a race we should be winning given our extraordinary resources in clean energy. But also we know, from Mr Biden’s platform, and from positions taken in Europe and the UK that increasingly countries that don’t take proper action on climate change will be vulnerable to changes in trade arrangements – changes like carbon border tariffs. It really is in Australia’s overarching interest to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
I just want to deal with the other aspect of that question. Emissions have only declined by 1 per cent in the 7 or 8 years that this Government has been in power. The idea that we have met the Kyoto commitment simply isn’t right. The Kyoto commitment was for a 5 per cent reduction on emissions by 2020. We did not meet that as at the end of 2019. The Paris commitment from Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison is for a 26 per cent emissions cut by 2030 and we are nowhere near on track for that. The Government’s own projections show that we will only reduce our emissions on current policy settings by 4 per cent over the course of the entire decade. So, Australia has not only got inadequate targets, no target for the middle of the century, we’re also not even coming close to meeting our existing targets.
JOURNALIST: Not to turn you into a US political analyst but how much would you ascribe Joe Biden’s win to his climate policies? Joel Fitzgibbon is in the paper today apparently saying that Labor shouldn’t go too boots in on this – on saying that Joe Biden’s win is all about the climate. What do you think?
BUTLER: I think any casual analysis would say that the overarching issues in the American election were the pandemic and the economic consequences of the pandemic, a very deep recession. There is also no question that one of the major planks of Joe Biden’s platform was a very ambitious climate change platform, a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, a commitment to zero emissions electricity by 2035, an extraordinary transformation of their electricity system and a range of other commitments in the transport and building sector alike.
When Mr Biden spoke over the weekend he spoke about four major issues. Obviously the pandemic and the economy but also climate change and race. This has been a very central plank of his platform right through the campaign and indeed in his response to his victory over the weekend. So I don’t think anyone can deny that an ambitious, clear, courageous climate policy was a central plank in Joe Biden’s election winning formula.
I think it had a few elements to it. Not only strength and courage but it also had unity behind it. Unity across the Democratic party but also unity across the environment movement and relevant business sectors. They might not have agreed with every single element of Joe Biden’s platform but once it was set they were all rowing in the same direction, all arguing for that platform.
JOURNALIST: On unity, Joel’s comments again in the paper in The Australian today seem to be sort of taking a crack on you and members of Labor’s pro-environment, pro-climate action wing. Is it going to be difficult for you to marry those two parts of the party together when Joel is out in the paper and saying those sorts of things over and over again?
BUTLER: It is important there be vigorous debates in this area as the Labor Party, the major party of alternative government, sets its climate policies leading into the next election. There should be vigorous debates. But, once those debates are settled, once a position is settled for Labor, the lesson that comes out of America is unity and consistency. Unity of purpose for all those who are interested in climate action, not just those within the party but beyond as well, and consistency of message. Once the platform is settled we need to get out and argue it strongly in all parts of the country with consistency.
JOURNALIST: Would you rather Joel Fitzgibbon make those comments inside the Party Room rather than to journalists?
BUTLER: That’s a matter for Joel. I’m quite comfortable with the idea of an open, vigorous debate about our climate change position within the party. I speak on climate change on behalf of the party and I’m very comfortable with the idea of a vigorous debate.